Reserve man dies as result of beating; sailor goes overboard

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 18, 1999

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / January 18, 1999

LAPLACE – Two fatalities, one resulting from a fight and other from an accident, occurred Thursday in St. John Parish.Lt. Michael Tregre of the St. John Sheriff’s Office reported that DennisMitchell, 22, 157 West 15th St., Reserve, was found in his front yard witha severe skull fracture.

The call came in at 6:12 p.m. Wednesday and the first officers arrived atthe scene at 6:21 p.m.Mitchell was transported first to River Parishes Hospital in LaPlace, and later transferred to Charity Hospital in New Orleans where, Tregre continued, he died Thursday at 8 a.m.Tregre added that Javor Johnson, 18, 128 Mercury Lane, Reserve, surrendered to authorities just after midnight Thursday morning and was booked on a charge of attempted second-degree murder.

With Mitchell’s later death, the charge may be amended to second-degree murder, that decision being up to the district attorney’s office.

Mitchell was apparently struck several times with a tree branch from his yard, the heavy branch being 5 feet long and 2 inches around, the result on an ongoing dispute. Johnson was also booked for a simple battery warrantand contempt of court.

Bond was set by 40th Judicial District Judge J. Sterling Snowdy at$250,907.50. In an unrelated incident, a Peruvian sailor apparently fell from his ship Thursday just after 8:30 p.m. as the ship was anchored at midstream justbelow LaPlace.

The bulk carrier “Clipper Fantasy” was just coming to anchorage when the crew member apparently fell overboard, according to Petty Officer David Rogers of the U.S. Coast Guard.A helicopter was immediately dispatched, as well as boats from the Coast Guard, Port of South Louisiana Harbor Services, St. John Sheriff’s Officeand other vessels in the area.

“It’s a pretty bad situation,” Rogers commented.

Mitch Smith, director of Harbor Services for the port, concurred and added, “At this point, it’s a recovery operation rather than a search and rescue.” He termed the sailor’s chances in the near-freezing river as slim to none, but noted, “Miracles have happened.”The search was suspended at noon Friday.

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